Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Christianophobia?

Below is a shortened version of my latest piece for the Guardian's Comment is Free section.

Mark Pritchard is my local MP and he has secured a debate at Westminster about how to best ensure that Britain's Christian tradition is, and continues to be, recognised - a pity that he couldn't find time to secure a debate about how we can prevent services transferring from our local hospital over to Shrewsbury, but obviously he feels this issue is of greater importance. In my view it isn't.

I am a Catholic by upbringing and conviction but I find myself in agreement with Keith Porteous Wood of the National Secular Society who states:

“Christians have absolutely nothing to complain about in this country. The UK is the only Western democracy to give (Christian) Bishops the right to sit in our legislature as of right (26 of them), which they on occasion use to further their own advantage, such as seeking exemption from the Human Rights Act.
“We have a Christian church established by law, which gives it substantial privileges that are denied to others. It runs a third of our education system at taxpayers’ expense, it receives hundreds of millions of pounds in subsidy from the state and lottery every year and it has enormous tax advantages. Large mandatory amounts of time are allocated to it by our national broadcaster, it has publicly-funded representatives in every prison and most hospitals, and in all branches of the military. The head of state is a Christian, the Prime Minister is a Christian and almost all the cabinet are self-identified Christians. How on earth can anyone imagine that Christians are disadvantaged or pushed to the margins?"

Perhaps though what we are really witnessing with this debate are the first moves to try and establish a political arm for the Christian Right in Britain? Mr Pritchard should proceed with caution - it wasn't that long ago that the BNP were singing from a similar hymn sheet!

3 comments:

Andrew Allison said...

We can agree on this one, Mike. The Church of England still has huge influence.

fake consultant said...

there are considerable challenges for hindu and islamic immigrants seeking to assimilate into the uk; and i'm curious as to whether you see an association between those difficulties and the fact that the uk has a christian government.

Anonymous said...

If the BNP has decided to take a stand on something it doesn't necessarily mean that it's wrong. It may mean that it's sensing a dissatisfaction within the public in general. If the mainstream parties don't respond to this dissatisfation, then they risk losing votes to extremists.
You didn't actually define Christianophobia in your article. You made it sound as though it's a
fear of losing the state church, or the bishops' powers in parliament. But it's often the small things that are seen by people in their own lives which bother them. Like the sidelining of nativity plays. Or the lack of Christmas decorations in charity shops. Little things that make them feel their own religion has no value. Also, if there is no such thing as Christianophobia, is there also no such thing as Islamophobia too? After all, it's the little things that are referred to as Islamophobia. Preferring a nativity play to an assembly about, say, Eid, is the sort of thing which is called Islamophobia. But why can't Christians claim that it is actually Christianophobia? Which
phobia are you most partial to?